Wednesday, June 8, 2016

If You Get Your Books From Pirate Sites and Then Complain About the Poor Quality of the Books, You Might Be a Flaming Asshole

Topic: Assholes who demand free books and download them from pirate websites. If that sentence offends you, please read what follows carefully so you are aware of the amount of time, effort, and money that actually goes into that "free" book.

My wife and I have been discussing this topic for a week now ever since Dear Broke Reader went onto Facebook asking for the location of sites where she could download pirated books since she had no money to buy them. Just to be clear on this, we both agree that anyone who goes to a pirate website and downloads the book for free is an asshole. She gets incensed about it; on one pirate site her book had been downloaded over seven hundred times, which means on that site alone she lost almost $2000 in sales. I don't want to know how much money I'm losing because I know I can do little to stop it, and knowing that will only piss me off. My view is that pirated books are an unfortunate cost of having to do business in today's publishing climate, much like retailers have to factor in losses through theft and damage. However, just because I accept this as a way of life doesn't mean I'm happy about it.

I don't profess to understand the narcissistic view of those who download pirated books, songs, and movies. Maybe they actually believe that they're better than the rest of us and are entitled to free entertainment, though I doubt that; I would venture to guess that none of these self-righteous book pirates would have the audacity to walk into Starbucks or McDonald's and demand a freebie.

Maybe it's the thrill of doing something "bad" combined with the safety of the anonymity of the Internet. Like those who attack and vilify others while hiding behind the anonymity of a user ID, they know there will never be any serious repercussions for their actions.

Maybe they feel they're justified in stealing e-books because of the ridiculous prices some publishers are charging. Of all the arguments, I can partially relate to this one. I've noticed a tendency from some publishers to charge almost as much for the electronic version as they do the trade paperback or hardcover edition of the same book. This is especially true for non-fiction books and best selling fiction writers. Again, that doesn't justify theft. Just because one service station overprices its gasoline doesn't give you the right to fill up at another station and drive off without paying.

Personally, I think the answer lies with the fact that most people who pirate books see writers/musicians/actors as grossly overpaid celebrities who can easily afford to lose a few bucks here and there. But for every Stephen King/Prince/Tom Cruise there are tens of thousands of independent artists struggling to get recognized and become famous, men and women who are performing their craft while working one or two jobs and often trying to support a family.

I also think these people have no concept of how much money actually goes into a well-produced book, whether released through an independent publisher or those that are self published. Most of us highly value the product we put out. Our novels and stories are an extension of us, and what we publish is our brand name. If it's sloppy and unprofessional, it makes us look sloppy and unprofessional. For myself, I spent close to $750 each on Rotter Nation and Rotter Apocalypse between professional editing and formatting, ISBNs, and cover art. Sure that is a lot of money to spend on a self-published book, but the quality of the finished product is as good as if they were released by a professional publishing house.

What happens when we publish on the cheap? We all know the answer to that one. Everyone reading this has at least once downloaded onto their Kindle a book the blurb of which sounded interesting, only to be sorely disappointed to find that the book was written, edited, formatted, and the cover art designed by someone who had no concept of editing, formatting, and cover art design (and, in too many cases, had no concept of how to write). It's self-published writers like that who make it harder for the rest of us who are professional to get by. They lower the overall standard of the industry, give all self-published writers and undeserved reputation, and create a climate that encourages others to pirate someone's intellectual property. Sadly, I see it as a growing trend in the future. As more books become pirated, more writers will have to cut corners if they hope to turn a minimal profit, which results in a decline in the quality of the finished product. This in turn will be used as justification for people to pirate even more books.

None of the above alters the fact that piracy is stealing, plain and simple. It doesn't matter if you steal from a major corporation or the mom-and-pop store down the street, theft is theft. Which brings me back to the basic premise of this post. If you get your books from pirate sites and deprive someone of their royalty for the hard work they put into that book, you might be an asshole.

If you get your books from pirate sites and then complain about the poor quality of the books, you might be a flaming asshole.

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